Major Banks Ban Buying Bitcoin With Your Credit Card

Most major U.S. credit card issuers have now banned the use of their cards to buy Bitcoin or other digital currencies, in a move intended to decrease both financial and legal risk.

Bank of America began blocking cryptocurrency purchases on Friday, according to Bloomberg. JPMorgan did the same on Saturday.

Citigroup also says it is halting cryptocurrency purchases on credit, and Capital One and Discover had already enacted their own bans. That means all of the top five credit card issuers have announced or implemented bans.

The moves are above all in the banks’ self-interest. As Fortune previously reported, the mania surrounding cryptocurrency late last year appears to have motivated many retail investors to use credit cards as leveraging tools, buying more cryptocurrency than they could afford. With Bitcoin down roughly 50% from December highs, many of those investors are likely underwater right now, and may not be able to pay off their initial Bitcoin purchases soon, if ever.

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Further, as Bloomberg points out, banks may be responsible for monitoring customers’ behavior to prevent money laundering after they make a credit-backed Bitcoin purchase, a tough standard for them to comply with.

The bans — or more to the point, the news of the bans — may exacerbate ongoing declines in cryptocurrency prices. After a hefty bounce Saturday morning, crypto markets broadly retreated on Sunday. Bitcoin is now trading at around $8,500 from a December high near $20,000.

In the longer term, however, tighter cryptocurrency investment controls, whether from regulators or lenders, seem likely to help mitigate the consequences of both hype and scams. For much of 2017, those threatened to overshadow the underlying promise of blockchain technology, which is still in the very early stages of evolution.

To Advance Artificial Intelligence, Reverse-Engineer the Brain

Your three-pound brain runs on just 20 watts of power—barely enough to light a dim bulb. Yet the machine behind our eyes has built civilizations from scratch, explored the stars, and pondered our existence. In contrast, IBM’s Watson, a supercomputer that runs on 20,000 watts, can outperform humans at calculation and Jeopardy! but is still no match for human intelligence.



James J. DiCarlo, MD/PhD, is a professor of neuroscience, an investigator in the McGovern Institute for Brain Research and the Center for Brains, Minds and Machines, and the head of the department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Neither Watson, nor any other artificially “intelligent” system, can navigate new situations, infer what others believe, use language to communicate, write poetry and music to express how it feels, and create math to build bridges, devices, and life-saving medicines. Why not? The society that solves the problem of intelligence will lead the future, and recent progress shows how we can seize that opportunity.

Imagine human intelligence as a skyscraper. Instead of girders and concrete, this structure is built with algorithms, or sequences of interacting rules that process information, layered upon and interacting with each other like the floors of that building.

The floors above the street represent the layers of intelligence that humans have some conscious access to, like logical reasoning. These layers inspired the pursuit of artificial intelligence in the 1950s. But the most important layers are the many floors that you don’t see, in the basement and foundation. These are the algorithms of everyday intelligence that are at work every time we recognize someone we know, tune in to a single voice at a crowded party, or learn the rules of physics by playing with toys as a baby. While these subconscious layers are so embedded in our biology that they often go unnoticed, without them the entire structure of intelligence collapses.

As an engineer-turned-neuroscientist, I study the brain’s algorithms for one of these foundational layers—visual perception, or how your brain interprets your surroundings using vision. My field has recently experienced a remarkable breakthrough.

For decades, engineers built many algorithms for machine vision, yet those algorithms each fell far short of human capabilities. In parallel, cognitive scientists and neuroscientists like myself accumulated myriad measurements describing how the brain processes visual information. They described the neuron (the fundamental building block of the brain), discovered that many neurons are arranged in a specific type of multi-layered, “deep” network, and measured how neurons inside that neural network respond to images of the surroundings. They characterized how humans quickly and accurately respond to those images, and they proposed mathematical models of how neural networks might learn from experience. Yet, these approaches alone failed to uncover the brain’s algorithms for intelligent visual perception.

The key breakthrough came when researchers used a combination of science and engineering. Specifically, some researchers began to build algorithms out of brain-like, multi-level, artificial neural networks so that they had neural responses like those that neuroscientists had measured in the brain. They also used mathematical models proposed by scientists to teach these deep neural networks to perform visual tasks that humans were found to be especially good at—like recognizing objects from many perspectives.

This combined approach rocketed to prominence in 2012, when computer hardware had advanced enough for engineers to build these networks and teach them using millions of visual images. Remarkably, these brain-like, artificial neural networks suddenly rivaled human visual capabilities in several domains, and as a result, concepts like self-driving cars aren’t as far-fetched as they once seemed. Using algorithms inspired by the brain, engineers have improved the ability of self-driving cars to process their environments safely and efficiently. Similarly, Facebook uses these visual recognition algorithms to recognize and tag friends in photos even faster than you can.

This deep learning revolution launched a new era in A.I. It has completely reshaped technologies from the recognition of faces and objects and speech, to automated language translation, to autonomous driving, and many others. The technological capability of our species was revolutionized in just a few years—the blink of an eye on the timescale of human civilization.

But this is just the beginning. Deep learning algorithms resulted from new understanding of just one layer of human intelligence—visual perception. There is no limit to what can be achieved from a deeper understanding of other algorithmic layers of intelligence.

As we aspire to this goal, we should heed the lesson that progress did not result from engineers and scientists working in silos; it resulted from the convergence of engineering and science. Because many possible algorithms might explain a single layer of human intelligence, engineers are searching for the proverbial needle in a haystack. However, when engineers guide their algorithm-building and testing efforts with discoveries and measurements from brain and cognitive science, we get a Cambrian explosion in A.I.

This approach of working backwards from measurements of the functioning system to engineer models of how that system works is called reverse engineering. Discovering how the human brain works in the language of engineers will not only lead to transformative A.I. It will also illuminate new approaches to helping those who are blind, deaf, autistic, schizophrenic, or who have learning disabilities or age-related memory loss. Armed with an engineering description of the brain, scientists will see new ways to repair, educate, and augment our own minds.

The race is on to see if reverse engineering will continue to provide a faster and safer route to real A.I. than traditional, so-called forward engineering that ignores the brain. The winner of this race will lead the economy of the future, and the nation is positioned to seize this opportunity. But to do so, the US needs significant new financial commitments from government, philanthropy, and industry that are devoted to supporting novel teams of scientists and engineers. In addition, universities must create new industry-university partnership models. Schools will need to train brain and cognitive scientists in engineering and computation, train engineers in the brain and cognitive sciences, and uphold mechanisms of career advancement that reward such teamwork. To advance A.I., reverse engineering the brain is the way forward. The solution is right behind our eyes.

WIRED Opinion *publishes pieces written by outside contributors and represents a wide range of viewpoints. *


The Chrome Extensions the WIRED Staff Can't Live Without

Nearly two-thirds of internet users turn to Chrome for their browsing needs, but far fewer take full advantage of its available extensions, the add-ons that elevate it from good to great. If you’re one of those plain vanilla Chrome users—or if you’ve only dabbled in the extensions game—check out these sprinkles of joy that the WIRED staff swears by.

The following list of Chrome extension recommendations is by no means comprehensive; there are plenty to explore and discover in the Chrome Web Store. (If you go exploring, just make sure you stick with reputable developers.) But these are the ones we depend on every day to keep our internet experience as sane and enjoyable as possible. May they do the same for you.

Wayback Machine

Have you ever clicked on an interesting link, only to be greeted by a 404 Error? Wayback Machine’s Chrome extension can help. Created by the Internet Archive—a nonprofit that preserves billions of web pages—the extension shows you what a website looked like in the past, even if has since been deleted. It can turn up the most recent version of a page it has saved, or go back to the first time the Internet Archive recorded it. That latter can be especially illuminating. For example, you can see what a user’s Twitter account looked like when they created it, or how a company’s website appeared when it first launched. One drawback: Wayback Machine doesn’t have a record of every webpage on the internet. But it can also help you prevent others from vanishing in the future: The extension lets you save the web page you’re currently visiting to the Internet Archive’s database. —Staff writer Louise Matsakis

The Great Suspender

You’ll find many tab management solutions on this list, but the best by far for my purposes is the Great Suspender, an extension which, as the name suggests, suspends any Chrome tabs that you’ve left fallow for a given amount of time. As someone who keeps well over a dozen tabs open at any given time during the day—and often more—being been an inestimable boon to my laptop and my sanity. And when it’s time to revisit a page, a simple click springs it back to life. It also lets you whitelist any tabs, like Gmail, that are too precious to suspend. —News editor Brian Barrett


Have I read your email? That’s for me to know and you not to find out. This Chrome Extension spots and blocks attempts to track when messages are opened and send that data back to the sender. I know who’s tracking me by the small red eye icon that appears next to messages in Gmail. Sure, I’m not surprised that services like Mailchimp track when messages are opened, but I’m sketched out when professional contacts do the same. — Joanna Pearlstein, deputy editor, newsroom standards


The best Chrome extensions effortlessly improve our lives in a small but impactful ways. And animatedTabs does exactly that. Once installed, the extension will automatically load a random GIF in the center of every new Chrome tab you open. Sound annoying? Come on, people, this is a pure delight. It seems like the GIFs largely source from Reddit’s /r/gifs/, so you mostly get previously undiscovered gems; there’s not much crying Jordan, or and shark cat on a Roomba. But what beats new? And all because you opened a tab to finally pay your three months overdue speeding ticket! The only downside to animatedTabs? You never know when it’s going to generate something NSFW or just dumb. But the real internet cred comes from not caring.
—Staff writer Lily Newman


Bedeviled by browser-tab clutter? Try xTab. It restricts the number of pages you can have open in a given browser window. Just set your cap and go about your business. When you exceed your limit, the extension gets to culling, automatically axing your oldest, least-accessed, or least-recently used tab. It can also prevent you from opening excess tabs altogether. I use that last setting the most; I like to do triage myself. Plus, I’m working on killing my reflexive tabbing habit, and being interrupted in the act helps keep my fingers in check. If you’ve tried other tab managers in the past and found them wanting, this could be your ticket; where most encourage you to cmd-T with abandon, xTab retrains you to curate a more manageable tabscape in real-time. —Senior writer Robbie Gonzalez

Go Back With Backspace

In July of 2016, the world changed for the worse. Up until that point, the backspace key on your desktop keyboard doubled as a back button in Chrome. It had been that way since the browser’s launch some eight years prior. By mid-2016, this action—a simple keystroke to go back one page in your browser history—had become hardwired in our lizard brains. But Google removed the backspace action that summer, because it caused a particularly Googley problem: People were losing work in web apps. When a user typed into a browser text field and hit the backspace key hoping to correct a typo, they’d sometimes inadvertently cause the browser to jump back one page, nuking whatever efforts they’d spent the last few minutes sweating over. Sure, that’s annoying. But imagine the outrage of millions of Chrome users when, upon the next browser update, the backspace key suddenly did nothing. Google had neutered one of the most useful mechanisms for navigating the web. Thankfully, the company recognized our plight and just weeks later released this extension, which restores the back-button functionality of the backspace key. Hallelujah. The preferred keystroke of Alt + left arrow is still the default in Chrome, and maybe you’re used to that now. But why force yourself to press two keys when you can install this extension and press only one? —Senior editor Michael Calore


You know when you open Chrome and the browser is like, “Are you sure you want to reopen 400 tabs?” (Yes I do, and rude!) Maybe it’s a selection of news articles you’re planning to read later, or the aftermath of clicking through dozens of Wikipedia pages. Maybe you don’t even know what’s in all those tabs. Either way, keeping them all open puts a huge strain on your browser. Close them all—without losing them forever—with the handy OneTab extension. One click of the button neatly collates all your open tabs into one list of links that you can revisit later. It saves your computer incredible amounts of RAM, speeds up the browser immediately, and keeps all those links handy for when you’re totally, definitely, someday coming back to read them. —Senior associate editor Arielle Pardes


My name is Tom and I have a Twitter problem—but I’m getting help from a Chrome extension called HabitLab. Anytime I look at the bird-logoed slot machine of trolling, outrage, and thinkfluencing there’s now a bold banner at the top counting up how long I’ve been on the site that day. If I open a Twitter tab but regain my senses and close it again quickly, a popup informs me how many seconds I just saved compared to my usual time-wasting visit. The message comes with a different “Good job!” GIF each time; most recently it was Jimmy Kimmel. HabitLab was developed by Stanford’s Human Computer Interaction group to help those of us suffering internet distraction disorder (most of us?) take control of our online habits. When first installed, it prompts you to identify the sites you want to spend less time on. HabitLab will then keep track of your wasted seconds, minutes, and hours, and display them in neat charts. It also offers a menu of “nudges” to help keep those trend lines moving in the right direction. One of them is the timer that now haunts me on Twitter, a nudge named The Supervisor. Others include GateKeeper, which makes you wait a few seconds before a page you’re trying to give up loads, and the devilish 1Minute Assassin, which kills a tab after 60 seconds. —Senior writer Tom Simonite

Eye Dropper

I am not a designer, and I’m sure that those who are have far better tools for pulling colors off of web pages than “Eye Dropper,” a mostly-but-not-always-functional extension that lets you eye-drop any color from around the web, and grab its RGB and Hex color codes. It’s particularly handy for quick fixes that don’t necessitate slowing down your computer by opening up Photoshop—like, say, updating the text on a WIRED section page to make it more readable. It isn’t the prettiest extension, and it’s all too easy to accidentally trigger the eyedropper if, like me, you’re prone to hitting alt-P instead of command-P when trying to print—but Eye Dropper gets the job done. —Digital producer Miranda Katz


If you’ve ever seen a Google ad follow you around the entire web and back, you know just how annoying and invasive online tracking can become. Ghostery is a fascinating way to see what services websites use to track and collect data about you. It creates a little icon with a number, showing you how many trackers every site uses. Wikipedia, for example, has 0. Most other sites have at least a few. You can see what they use to monitor their website traffic and serve ads, and block services that you don’t like. It’s not perfect; sometimes it will break sites you want to visit, and you’ll have to turn it off or pause it, although the latest release uses AI powers to help minimize the collateral damage. —Senior writer Jeffrey Van Camp

ProPublica’s What Facebook Thinks You Like

Facebook thinks I like arachnids because my brother writes for a TV show called Scorpion. It thinks I like Christmas Eve because Pearlstein, and it thinks I like flywheels because my late friend Eric Scott was in a band by that name. I know all of this thanks to ProPublica’s cool Facebook Chrome Extension, which helps me see what Facebook thinks about me, and then lets me rate how spot-on—or not—the site’s analysis is, using the aptly named Creepy Meter. —JP


I fly a lot. In the past year, I’ve taken roughly a dozen round trips, each with their own fun, idiosyncratic layovers and delays. To pass the tarmac time, I could watch a bunch of downloaded episodes of The Crown or The Great British Baking Show. I could read a good ol’ fashioned book. Or I could connect to plane Wi-Fi and incessantly check Twitter. Instead, what I prefer to do before leaving for the airport is save a bunch of stories to Pocket. This nifty extension allows you to stow away things you want to read later, no internet connection necessary (though if you use the Pocket app on your phone, be sure to sync it over Wi-Fi or a network connection before going into airplane mode). Pocket also recommends stories, based on other users you follow or topics that interest you, and allows you to optimize your reading experience—I prefer a serif font with a black background and very large text to protect my fatigued eyes. But for someone who opens a million tabs with an intention to eventually read them all, it’s my preferred way to dog-ear a story. If you want to start saving, here’s a shameless plug to visit WIRED’s Backchannel page, chock full of excellent longform narratives that will transport you during your disconnected commute. — editor Andrea Valdez


Getting a password manager extension means getting a password manager, so definitely do that. All the major managers—LastPass, Dashlane, 1Password, KeePass—offer Chrome extensions, and they’re crucial to making password managers easy to use. The browser extensions act as a quick control center to fill login forms, generate new passwords, and save new credentials into your manager. And though password managers can work without extensions, switching back and forth to a standalone desktop application can be clunky while you’re browsing online. These extensions do carry some potential security risks, but if they’re what get you on a password manager in the first place, they’re worth it. —LN

Google Calendar

You probably use Google Calendar every day—many, many times. Instead of letting it permanently squat on valuable tab real estate on your desktop, try the Google Calendar Chrome extension instead. It puts a small Calendar icon in the upper right of your browser window, right where you’d expect. Tap it, and a box drops down, showing you all the meetings you have coming up. I like the design because it reminds me of the wonderful Google Cal widget on my Android home screen. It’s just a one-shot view of the meetings and events you have coming up in the next week or two. You can customize which calendars appear, which is also nice, because if you’re like me, you have a ton of them. For more display options—or to get crazy and log into two Google Calendars at the same time—try the Checker Plus for Google Calendar extension. It’s not official, but works well. —JVC

And More

WIRED editor-in-chief Nicholas Thompson swears by Grammarly, an extension that checks your emails, tweets, Facebook posts, and other online missives for spelling and grammar mistakes. Features editor Mark Robinson recommends Reader View, which he describes as a “one-button, rather lo-fi instant Instapaper,” stripping web articles down to the bare essentials. And while senior writer Andy Greenberg has not and likely would never use it, he did find an extension called Kardashian Krypt, which encrypts your messages in images of Kim Kardashian using a technique known as steganography.

The Chrome Zone

What Do Customers Want? Insights from IKEA's Founder and Beetle Bailey's Creator

Regular readers of this column know that I spend a lot of time thinking about what makes people tick.

That’s because I learned long ago that the secret to appealing to customers, stakeholders, audience members and anyone you care about is to understand who they are and what they want.

And that’s why I carefully read the obituaries of two men who exemplified this philosophy: Ingvar Kamprad, the founder of IKEA, and Mort Walker, the creator of “Beetle Bailey,” a comic strip about a lazy Army private. (Both men died this week.)

Wait–what could these two possibly have in common?

Well, start with the fact that each man was extremely successful in his field. When Kamprad was 17, he launched the store that, over the next seven decades, became the world’s largest seller of furniture (with 400 stores and $42 billion in revenue). And Walker created the comic strip that would ultimately be syndicated in 1,800 newspapers around the world; he had the longest tenure of any cartoonist on an original creation.

Although they were in very different realms, here’s what united Kamprad and Walker: their deep connection to their customers.

For example, in a Forbes interview in 2000, Kamprad summed up his approach this way: “I see my task as serving the majority of people. The question is, how do you find out what they want, how best to serve them? My answer is to stay close to ordinary people, because at heart I am one of them.”

And, as Richard Goldstein wrote in Walker’s New York Times obituary, “‘Beetle Bailey’ used the Army as its setting, but its popularity derived from everyday life and the universal battles against authority figures and mindless bureaucracy.”

When the Defense Department congratulated Mr. Walker on his 80th birthday, he said: “Human frailty is what humor is all about. People like to see the foibles of mankind. And they relate to the little guy, the one on the bottom.”

For both Kamprad and Walker, their understanding of customers–readers or shoppers–wasn’t theoretical or informed only  by data; it was based on personal experience.

Walker spent a stint in the Army, and he stayed in touch with servicemen throughout his life. And although Kamprad became very, very rich, he regularly flew economy and popped into his stores unannounced to replicate the customer experience.

These men knew that in order to break through today’s noise and nonsense, you have to not only know your customers; you have to love them.

As I’ve written, your love has to be real–not manufactured or manipulative–and unconditional. You have to clearly see your customers’ faults, but love them anyway. Your love has to be unwavering, despite inattention, inconstancy and even infidelity.

Only by truly loving your customers can you deliver in a way that’s truly about them, not about you. The leap to loving brings you in touch with what matters to people. Suddenly you’re able to communicate in ways that profoundly connect. You’re not on the other side of the chasm from your customers: You’re right there next to them, talking softly, saying what they’ve always wanted to hear. As a result, you can give customers what they actually want.

6 Proven Ways to Generate Good Luck Every Day

Nearly everyone wants to be luckier. Some people think success is about preparing for luck, while others think success is about what you do with luck when you find it. There may be different perspectives on luck, but everyone agrees you can’t go wrong with more of it, as long as it’s good.

YPO member Stuart Lacey is considered by many to be an extremely lucky guy, personally and professionally. He married the woman of his dreams, lives exactly where and how he wants, and has traveled to over 70 countries. He’s built 5 successful companies, including Trunomi, a customer consent data rights platform. Bank Innovation even named Lacey as an Innovator to Watch. Lacey has made respecting luck a regular part of his business activity. He even created a mathematical formula to analyze and replicate it.

Lacey’s Lucky Formula

% Luckiness =



(situational awareness) x [perseverance (work ethic / heart)]unlimited x (# of times attempted)failure is good x (choice to act)binary x (Respect and EQ)


(tolerance for adversity)

Here are Lacey’s tips on making your own luck daily:

1. Use Your Education and Experience

Lacey likens experience to the process of securing a patent. “Anyone can file for a patent in a matter of hours for a few hundred bucks. But without a deep understanding of the technical, engineering, design, and geo-political aspects, and without appreciating the importance of opportunity cost and due diligence, the chance of receiving that patent is practically zero.” And Lacey understands that outside factors can influence the outcome, explaining, “Of course experience can be borrowed, for example, by using a world-class (and equally expensive!) patent attorney.” But in the long run, no amount of money can make up for a lack of experience.

2. Have Situational Awareness

Lacey asks a frightening question: “When you’re in a movie theatre, do you actually know where the exits are?” Lacey asserts, “Having situational awareness can multiply by a thousand your chances of survival.” The same is true in business. In a less frightening scenario, Lacey suggests it’s like skiing: “When you’re at the bottom of the mountain, have the foresight to recognize that the last on the ski tram is the first one on the slope. You can totally change your experience just by thinking ahead.” What you do when you get there is up to you, but you can maximize your potential by understanding what’s going on around you.

3. There’s No Substitute for Heart

A hockey fan, Lacey likes to quote Luc Robitaille, who said, “You can find someone smart, but never underestimate heart.” Lacey says, Passion and work ethic usually trump everything else, and luck does not favor those who don’t put in the hours.” It helps, of course, when your career is doing something you love. But when you put in the solid work, the rest will follow with more ease.

4. Embrace Failure

Lacey is a firm believer in the adage, “Fail quickly, fail cheaply, and fail often.” Lacey says, “The willingness to accept and learn from one’s mistakes is vital for luck.” Mistakes here can multiply. “You have to invest time with your head down, ready to constantly pivot and adjust. Embracing change and innovation IS to embrace failure.” People are told from childhood that failure is bad, and this is a crutch that any entrepreneur has to overcome.

5. Take Action

“How often do you look at something new and say, ‘I thought of that a while ago!'” Lacey asks. “There are so many stories of inventions that never occurred or were greatly delayed until someone else took the initiative to act.” It’s not always easily done. “It takes courage,” Lacey acknowledges, “and a willingness to fail and bounce back.” But the alternative is always worse. Lacey asserts, “Either you act and luck has a shot, or you don’t act and the chances of your influencing the outcome are nil.” Take the chance on yourself, and don’t be afraid – failure is an opportunity.

6. Attitude Matters

For Lacey, it’s important to remember that people are human. “If your flight is cancelled, it’s not the gate agent’s fault. I have always found that a kind, supportive, appreciative tone, with a strong measure of compassion, works absolute wonders.” No one likes being unappreciated or disrespected. “Focusing on the human element of interactions at all times is a multiplier of your chances for a lucky outcome.” Another important element is to maintain optimism. Lacey explains, “I’m realistic about the work required, but I’m also aware the future is one that we will create and craft. You need to have the ability to accept bumps in the road while keeping your eye on the prize.” Further, a willingness to accept compromise is key. Be humble, and remember to exercise emotional intelligence.

Each week Kevin explores exclusive stories inside YPO, the world’s premiere peer-to-peer organization for chief executives, eligible at age 45 or younger.

LibreOffice, the best office suite, gets even better with LibreOffice 6.0

Who needs to pay for Microsoft Office when you can get LibreOffice 6.0 for free?

OK, if you are tied at the hip to Microsoft Office I can see why you’ll continue to pay year after year for your Office subscription. But, seriously, if you’re not, why aren’t you using the newest version of LibreOffice 6.0?

The bottom line is the open-source LibreOffice just works. I’ve used every office suite since WordStar and DataStar were things. LibreOffice is every bit as good as Microsoft Office and it’s free to boot.

You can run LibreOffice on Linux, macOS, and Windows. You can also use on your web browser, if you deploy LibreOffice Online as software-as-a-service server on a cloud, bare-iron, or in a Docker container.

This latest edition of LibreOffice boasts much better file compatibility with Microsoft Office documents. I checked this by sending a manuscript to an editor of mine who always found problems with LibreOffice’s docx formatting. At last, with LibreOffice 6.0, she’s happy with formatting.

Specifically, LibreOffice 6.0 comes with improved Microsoft Office Open OOXML interoperability. This includes: iSmartArt import and ActiveX controls import/export for embedded text documents and spreadsheets, export of embedded videos to PPTX, export of cross-references to DOCX, export of MailMerge fields to DOCX, and improvements to the PPTX filter.

In addition, you can now export Writer documents to the ePub ebook format. You can also import QuarkXPress files. In short, if you want to publish ebooks straight from LibreOffice, you can now.

There’s also an improved filter for importing Enhanced Metafile Format Plus Microsoft Office documents. Some improvements have also been made to the Open Document Format (ODF) export filter, making it easier for other ODF readers to display visuals

I’m not a big fan of ribbon style user interface (UI) on any program, but if that’s what floats your boat, the LibreOffice Ribbon UI now has two new versions. The first, Groupedbar Full, put three levels of buttons on the bar. The other, Tabbed Compact, is a minimalist version of the standard Tabbed Notebook Bar. To use them, or the other ribbon UIs, you must take the following steps:

  1. Click on the menu Tools > Options
  2. Select ‘LibreOffice’ > ‘Advanced’
  3. Check ‘Enable Experimental Features’
  4. Press ‘OK’

And then restart the application. Me? I’m sticking with ye olde toolbar.

There are also four significant feature improvements. These are:

Writer PDF Forms: A Form menu has been added. This makes it easier to access one of the most powerful and little-known LibreOffice features: The ability to design forms and create standards-compliant PDF forms. The Find toolbar has been enhanced with a drop-down list of search types, to speed up navigation. A new default table style has been added, together with a new collection of table styles to reflect evolving visual trends.

Improved Writer Mail Merge function: It’s now possible to use either a Writer document or an XLSX file as data source.

Calc command standardization: ODF 1.2-compliant functions SEARCHB, FINDB, and REPLACEB have been added, to improve support for the ISO standard format. Also, a cell range selection or a selected group of shapes (images) can be now exported in PNG or JPG format.

Impress enhancements: The default slide size has been switched to 16:9, to support the most recent form factors of screens and projectors. As a consequence, 10 new Impress templates have been added, and a couple of old templates have been updated.

A minor improvement, but one I’ll really like, is that user dictionaries now allow automatic affixation or compounding. In the past, if I entered a new word, I’d also have to add the plural or LibreOffice wouldn’t recognize it. For example, I’d need to add “dog” and “dogs”. Now, instead of manually entering several forms of a new word, LibreOffice’s Hunspell spell checker can automatically recognize a new word with affixes or compounds, based on its “Grammar By” model.

An experimental feature which the security conscious will appreciate is you can now sign and encrypt your ODF documents with OpenPGP keys. To enable this, you must install GPG software for your operating systems to generate a PGP key. That done, you can encrypt your document by calling the key with the command: File > Digital Signatures.

How good is LibreOffice 6.0? Well, after playing with betas, I’m already installing it on all my desktops and laptops.

That said, LibreOffice’s parent organization, The Document Foundation, would like to remind you that “LibreOffice 6.0 represents the bleeding edge in term of features for open-source office suites, and as such is targeted at technology enthusiasts, early adopters, and power users. For enterprise class deployments, The Document Foundation maintains the more mature 5.4 family — now at 5.4.4 “

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China's Lenovo posts third-quarter loss due to U.S. tax reform

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Chinese personal computer maker Lenovo Group reported a quarterly loss of $289 million on Thursday against a $98 million profit a year earlier, due mainly to a one-off charge of $400 million resulting from U.S. tax reform.

Revenue for the three-month period ending December was $12.94 billion, compared with $12.17 billion a year ago.

Lenovo said its core PC and smart devices business group posted an 8 percent rise in revenue to $9.25 billion as sales exceeded shipments growth thanks to better average selling prices driven by innovative products and a better product mix.

Its struggling mobile business – which the group had set a target to turn around by the end of the financial year in March – reported a narrower operating loss before taxation of $92 million, compared with a loss of $132 million in the preceding quarter.

($1 = 6.2842 Chinese yuan renminbi)

Reporting by Sijia Jiang and Donny Kwok; Editing by Stephen Coates